Computers

Computer-generated fur gets more realistic

Computer-generated fur gets mo...
A raccoon with fur created using the new technique
A raccoon with fur created using the new technique
View 2 Images
A raccoon with fur created using the new technique
1/2
A raccoon with fur created using the new technique
A wolf with fur created using the new technique
2/2
A wolf with fur created using the new technique

If you're not satisfied with the realism of computer-generated animals in movies and games, then you might be interested in the latest news out of the University of California San Diego. Working with colleagues from UC Berkeley, computer scientists there have developed a new method of rendering fur that's reportedly much more accurate than existing techniques.

Currently, fur is simulated in the same manner as is human hair – the computer utilizes a model that follows a ray of light as it bounces from one fur fiber to another. The technique requires a lot of processing power, and takes a long time.

The problem is, fur isn't the same as hair. Fur fibers have a much larger medulla (central cylinder), that scatters the light in a way that hair doesn't. This is one of the main reasons that fur and hair look different from one another.

A wolf with fur created using the new technique
A wolf with fur created using the new technique

With that in mind, the researchers turned to a well-understood concept known as subsurface scattering. It describes the fashion in which light enters the surface of a translucent object at one point, scatters at various angles, and then exits the object at another point.

Using a neural network, the team created an algorithm that applies subsurface scattering to the rendering of fur. After being trained on just a single scene, the network was able to apply the concept to every scene with which it was presented.

The resulting simulations are not only said to be more realistic than those created using state-of-the-art traditional methods, but the technique is also ten times faster.

Source: University of California San Diego

3 comments
S Michael
I wonder if Adobe has read this... Cool photoshop plugin.
DomainRider
They still don't look realistic - a bit too fuzzy. Fur has different types of hairs; long tough surface hairs, and shorter fluffier insulating hairs, and the surface hairs vary in length and thickness depending on the body area.
StWils
Domain, catch a clue here. The issue you are describing is not an actual problem but the starting point for an improved problem definition. The next iteration needs to have several levels of intermingled hair definitions. Incidentally, the next step beyond that is to study the range of hair length and properties across an animal. Fur is not consistently the same across their bodies like so much tacky 70's shag carpeting. The properties of the various kinds of hairs get defined first and then the types get laid out and intermingled on a wire frame model of a given animal.